From left: Owen McEvoy, Margo Sullivan, Elliott Sullivan and Emma Buckley enjoying a sunset harbor cruise. (Photo by Betsy Buckley)
From left: Owen McEvoy, Margo Sullivan, Elliott Sullivan and Emma Buckley enjoying a sunset harbor cruise. (Photo by Betsy Buckley)

By Tim Sullivan

Most people probably don’t spend much time on spring break thinking about their dead grandmother but I do. Nan passed away about 17 years ago, but any time I feel exceptionally decadent or privileged she springs to mind precisely because she would have had none of it. To her, a loaf of Irish soda bread was a party and a vacation was 20 minutes in a folding chair reading the obituaries. Slack off for a few minutes around the house and she was quick to dismiss you as “the laziest of the bunch.”

Kristen, the kids and I spent spring break on Captiva Island, Florida at the South Seas resort with her sister Betsy and her family. If you’ve been there then you may understand the Irish Catholic guilt that permeated my soul, but if not then just imagine the agony over deciding pool, beach, golf or tennis each day. Do you want to see dolphins or exotic birds? Should we ride bikes, go fishing or do yoga? Yes kids, the snacks in the cabana come with the daily rental. It was like Nan’s Top Ten list of useless activities.

The resort trolley swiftly scooted us to our desired leisure and there was a tracking app that told us how exactly long to expect to wait for the bus (4 minute average). The key swipe card not only opened the door to our room but also “paid” for everything on or near the resort. It was like magic! Dangerous magic. I think I’ll let Kristen open the AMEX bill while I close my eyes and chant ohm ohm ohm…

When I was young, spring break was about as exciting as a 50 cent coupon to Pathmark. We could sleep a smidge later and hang out with our friends on the block but never under any circumstances was there a palm tree in sight. That was part of the deal when growing up as one of ten kids—no palm trees. My mother might suggest projects like cleaning our rooms or getting a jump on our summer reading lists. Nan would scoff at the mere notion of a week off but suggest we get acquainted with the broom, mop and scrub brushes.

And we could always enjoy the rewards of potato detail. Nan kept about 25 pounds of potatoes in a lower kitchen cabinet at all times. And potatoes need peeling. To prove she was the least lazy of the bunch, Nan would peel the potatoes with a small paring knife that she would sharpen out on the front stoop (where she also sharpened large knives). I’m pretty certain that she never visualized the opening scene of a horror movie quite the way I did.

Because the thing was, we did have a potato peeler. That had definitely been invented at the time. The soft, ergonomic grip was still years away but the functionality was absolutely superior to the SEARS culinary collection of 1961. But Nan immigrated from Ireland as a teen and just never stopped working. She outlived her husband, siblings, two children and their spouses… Aside from work, the constants in her life were heartache and potatoes so any technologically advanced methods designed to aggregate more leisure time were pointless. She had already read the obits, right?

I would have loved to take Nan out of her comfort zone and bring her to Captiva just to witness the Least Lazy Person Ever fight the adjustment to island time. Whenever Enrique the Captiva bartender would mix up a round of fruity island drinks for us, I would contemplate what might constitute “The Nan” cocktail. Potatoes make vodka but Nan’s drink was Scotch with a little water and a small spoonful of sugar. We could toss that and some ice in a blender, right? Maybe a plastic umbrella and a potato slice for garnish? It might be terrible but that is exactly how Nan would want it.

Tim Sullivan grew up in a large family in the Northeast and now lives with his small family in Oakhurst. He can be reached at


Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.